Document Type



The literature on standard form contracts has increased dramatically in recent years, as lawyers and economists have debated their desirability in both business and consumer settings. The development of novel forms of contracting, such as telephonic and Internet-based contracting, as well as the application of interdisciplinary approaches to legal issues have raised questions concerning the meaning of assent to terms that are presented with little practical opportunity for negotiation. Many of the arguments for or against the enforcement of standard form contracts rely on assumptions concerning the extent to which some buyers can serve as surrogates for others and the presence or absence in standard forms of terms that reflect what would emerge in a competitive environment. Recently, some empirical literature has appeared on these questions as well. Finally, some commentators have suggested additional administrative regulation of contracts to reduce exploitation of those presented with unalterable standard forms. This review of the literature, prepared for the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Law and Economics (2d edition), discusses the current state of the theoretical and empirical literature on these issues.

Date of Authorship for this Version

April 2009